“The promises of our Constitution extend to all Pennsylvanians…”

A federal judge struck down Pennsylvania’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples today on the grounds it unconstitutionally discriminates against lesbians and gay men. His order directs the commonwealth to allow same-sex couples to marry and to recognize valid out-of-state marriages.

The lawsuit, Whitewood v. Wolf, was filed by Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the American Civil Liberties Union, and University of Pennsylvania School of Law Professor Seth Kreimer.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a widow, 11 couples who wish to marry in Pennsylvania or want the commonwealth to recognize their out-of-state marriages, and two teenage children of one of the plaintiff couples.

“The court, in a bell-ringing opinion, has explained in crystal clear language why the promises of our Constitution extend to all Pennsylvanians. We urge the commonwealth to take whatever steps are necessary to allow marriages to proceed and the celebrations to begin immediately. What a great day!” said Mark Aronchick of Hangley Aronchick.

“Pennsylvania’s law harmed same-sex couples and their children by depriving them of the legal protections and tax benefits afforded to married couples. This was the right result, the only just result,” said Helen Casale of Hangley Aronchick.

“Today isn’t just an important day for our plaintiffs and the thousands of other same-sex couples in Pennsylvania. It is a wonderful day for all of Pennsylvania as it is a more inclusive society than it was yesterday,” said John Stapleton of Hangley Aronchick.

”We are overjoyed that we will finally be able to get married in our home state in front of our family and friends,” said Christine Donato, who has been in a committed relationship with Sandy Ferlaine for 17 years. They have a six-year-old son, Henry.

“This is yet another win in a long line of rulings finding that denying same-sex couples the protections and dignity of marriage is unconstitutional,” said Leslie Cooper, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “Across the country, Americans are embracing the idea that same-sex couples and their families deserve to be treated the same as other families.”

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia currently allow same-sex couples to marry, and courts across the country, including those in Oklahoma, Utah, Arkansas, and Idaho, have struck down state laws banning marriage for same-sex couples.

“This is a momentous day for our clients and all same-sex couples in Pennsylvania who want to have their love and commitment to each other recognized in the same way as that of other couples,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

Lawyers involved in the case include Mark Aronchick, Helen Casale, John Stapleton, Dylan J. Steinberg, and Rebecca S. Melley of Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller; Witold Walczak, Mary Catherine Roper, and Molly Tack-Hooper of the ACLU of Pennsylvania; James Esseks and Leslie Cooper of the of the ACLU LGBT Project; and Seth Kreimer of the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

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